We wanted to eat. Quisimos comer. We started to dance. Empezamos a bailar. Why does the second example have an "a" between the two verbs, while the first one doesn't?

I've also noticed this A show up in places I never would have expected it. For example, when I was playing Pokémon, every time I got into a battle, it said "A luchar contra ____". Also, when I was watching a video, a comment read "A divertirse con este video."

What does this "A" before the verb mean?

  • I looked up Verb Periphrasis like Jubilado said, and I know why Empezar uses "a" and Querrer doesn't. I still don't know what the "A" before the verb in "A luchar contra ______" means though - HackerKing Jan 31, 2013
  • Thanks for asking this. I was wondering this myself. Now I finally understand transitive verbs. Yea! - JoyceM Feb 1, 2013

7 Answers



Why do people put an "a" before verbs.

Because people are following grammar rules of sentence construction.

Some verbs require the "a" of verb direction and some don´t, so it´s a matter of memorization. Where you don´t have to memorize is when using the personal "a", which is always, ie: "Te voy a dar este regalo a ti" (the last part "a ti" is not required but just for emphasis, but the personal "a" is still required).



JulianChivi is right.

In Spanish, we have verbs that are followed by a preposition such as "a" or "para" that complements the meaning of the verb. They are meaningless without that preposition. Some verbs are accompanied by the preposition "a", and most of them also show a sense of "direction" or "intention", which is the case of empezar in your example.

If you think about it, is the same in English, as you say "I love Gina", but must say "I talk to Gina" or " I wait for Gina" , these verbs are meaningless without the preposition.

Some verbs with preposition are: Ir a/ Comenzar a/ Empezar a

  • Jan 31, 2013
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  • I should have read this irenean before posting :) - ian-hill Jan 31, 2013
  • Note that we can say "I await Gina" :) - ian-hill Jan 31, 2013
  • You're right, ian-hill, I missed "await" ;) - irenean Feb 1, 2013


I would like to point out that something similar happens in English.

Some verbs need a "to"


Listen to me. - Talk to me.


Hear me. - Love me.

I know of no rule books with a list of verbs that need a "to".

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Look under the "Learn" tab here "Spanish Grammar" "Verbs" then "Verbal Periphrasis"

When you wonder "Why?" something is said the way it is you can check the vast Grammar resource here.

I couldn't find the answer to why "a luchar contra...etc" but maybe someone else will answer.

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I don't think it's that the verb requires an "a" before it but more like the previous verb requires an "a" after it, example,

Usted aprende a hablar, a entender, a leer y a escribir el español. You are learning to speak, to understand, to read and to write Spanish.

The "a" is required after the verb aprender, to learn to.

I would be interested in knowing which text preceded "a luchar" and "a divertirse".

Following on from this, below is a list of some of the verbs followed by "a"

acercarse a - to approach

acertar a - to manage to

acostumbrarse a - to be/get used to

alcanzar a - to manage to

animar a - to encourage to

aprender a - to learn to

atreverse a - to dare to

ayudar a - to help

bajar a - to go down to

comenzar a - to begin to

comprometerse a - to undertake to

conducir a - to lead to

contribuir a - to contribute to

convidar a - to invite to

cuidar a* - to take care of

decidirse a - to decide to

dedicarse a - to devote oneself to

desafiar a - to challenge to

disponerse a - to get ready to

echar(se) a - to begin to

empezar a - to begin to

enseñar a - to teach to, show how to

forzar a - to force to

impulsar a - to urge to

incitar a - to incite to

inclinar a - to incline to

invitar a - to invite to

ir a - to be going to

limitarse a - to limit oneself to

llegar a - to manage to, succeed in, end up

llegar a ser - to become

llevar a - to lead to

mandar a - to send to

meterse a - to start to

negarse a - to refuse to

obligar a - to force, compel to

pasar a - to go on to

persuadir a - to persuade to

ponerse a - to begin to, set about

prepararse a - to get ready to

renunciar a - to renounce

resignarse a - to resign oneself to

resistirse a - to resist

tender a - to tend to

volver a - to ___ again

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  • | Edited by Eddy Jan 31, 2013
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  • Thanks for the list! There was no context for the two comments (sorry). When I was challenged by another pokemon trainer, the screen said "A luchar con entrenador Bob". Likewise, for the video comment, the guy commented only one sentence. - HackerKing Feb 1, 2013


I agree that some verbs require the preposition "a" before an infinitive that follows the verb. There are also verbs which need the prepositions "de" or 'en' or "con". These prepositions help complete the meaning of the verb they follow (i.e. dejar vs dejar de, to let or to allow vs to stop).

The verb "ir" has a special use with the preposition "a" which forms the informal future tense. For example, voy a bailer, which translates into " I am goine to dance" (informal future

The personal "a" points out the direct object of a verb when it is a specific person or a personal pronoun like alguien when it refer to specific a person. Native speakers will also say that the personal "a" also works with family pets.

Yes, you do have to remember which verbs require a preposition with the infinitve but with practice it gets easier.

buena suerte

  • Jan 31, 2013
  • | Edited by gohern Jan 31, 2013
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Hacker Commented

Thanks for the list! There was no context for the two comments (sorry). When I was challenged by another pokemon trainer, the screen said "A luchar con entrenador Bob". Likewise, for the video comment, the guy commented only one sentence.

You will probably find he was thinking along the lines of, "Voy a luchar con entrenador Bob.. You will notice that the preceeding verb to "luchar" is "ir a" which is from my previous list.

  • Feb 1, 2013
  • | Edited by Eddy Feb 1, 2013
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